President Obama called on Congress to pass an expansive trade agreement spanning the Pacific Rim to give the United States an edge in the global economy.
The president told Congress on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address that forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an example of the United States using its powers to "mobilize the world to work with us” on issues of global concern.
The TPP will cut 18,000 tariffs and support better U.S. jobs, Obama said.
“With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”
The TPP mention got scattered applause from the assembled lawmakers and a glance to the Republican side of the floor from Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanPence is Trump’s top surrogate Border tax is reverse redistribution CEOs come to defense of border tax plan MORE (R-Wis.).
The White House faces plenty of hurdles to building congressional support to pass the deal.
The majority of the president’s own party in Congress is opposed to passing the TPP, leaving him to rely on Republicans to help complete that part of his economic agenda before he leaves office.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), an outspoken critic of the TPP, tweeted that the deal “does not raise wages, grow good paying American jobs, or expand our middle class. We can and we must do better.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he’s working through the agreement and may start hearings in February.
Brady said that while the TPP agreement is important on many levels for the United States, the White House must address some issues — from pharmaceuticals to tobacco — to solidify support in Congress.
He said that the timing of a House floor vote would be driven by the amount of congressional support.
Still, the TPP has a "good solid base of support in the House but there is still a lot of work to do," Brady said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate Pence is Trump’s top surrogate MORE (R-Ky.) has said that the TPP would probably have to wait until the lame-duck session after the presidential election.
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRon WydenA guide to the committees: Senate Tech, advocacy groups slam DHS call to demand foreign travelers' passwords Dem bill would force Border Patrol agents to get warrants before searching devices MORE (D-Ore.), who was instrumental in building Democratic support for fast-track authority in the Senate, said he agrees with the president that “opening new markets and exporting American products represents an enormous opportunity to grow jobs and raise middle-class wages.”
"Trade done right must maximize those opportunities for Oregon and the United States,” Wyden said.
Whether the deal can move faster on a tight congressional calendar in a presidential election year remains to be seen.
The TPP was completed in October, and the text of the agreement was released in early November. Trade ministers from the TPP's 12 nations are expected to gather early next month to sign the pact.